Most social media users want their chosen platforms free from harassment and porn. But they also want to see the content they choose to see. This means platforms face an irreconcilable contradiction: while platforms promise an open space for participation and community, every one of them imposes rules of some kind.
In the early days of social media, content moderation was hidden away, even disavowed. But the illusion of the open platform has, in recent years, begun to crumble. Today, content moderation has never been more important, or more controversial. In Custodians of the Internet, Tarleton Gillespie investigates how social media platforms police what we post online – and the societal impact of these decisions.
“I've been writing about the impact of platforms and the digital transformation for fifteen years,” said Gillespie. “This book explains how content moderation works: how the platforms think of their responsibilities, the way they create and articulate the rules, the labor behind the scenes, and recent efforts to automate it all.” Based on interviews with content moderators, creators, and consumers, this book contributes to the current debates about the public responsibilities of platforms, be it about harassment, data privacy, or political propaganda.
Gillespie argues that content moderation still receives too little public scrutiny. How and why platforms moderate can shape societal norms and alter the contours of public discourse, cultural production, and the fabric of society.
About the Author
Tarleton Gillespie is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research New England, and an affiliated associate professor at Cornell University in the Department of Communication and the Department of Information Science. He cofounded the blog Culture Digitally. His previous book is the award-winning Wired Shut: Copyright and the Shape of Digital Culture (MIT 2007). He also co-edited Media Technologies: Essays on Communication, Materiality, and Society (MIT 2014)
His research has appeared in New Media & Society; Social Media & Society; The International Journal of Communication; Information, Communication, & Society; The Information Society; Limn; and Social Studies of Science. His writing has appeared in Wired, Salon, the Neiman Journalism Lab, and The Atlantic online, and he has been quoted in Wired, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Quartz, BBC Radio, and NPR.